Sunday, 8 February 2009

64 Garden Avenue

I've been reminded of my grandma at every turn for the last month or so. She died over ten years ago now, about the time we first moved to London. She sadly never got to meet lovely M, although I did tell her about him, and she told me she was looking forward to it; as soon as she was a little better.
I absolutely and unconditionally loved my grandma, she was always there in my life' and that of others and was rumoured to make the best ever Yorkshire pudding. Most of the memories I have are wrapped up in her house; a 1930's semi on what was a very respectable quiet street in South London when purchased. Over the years it got a little rougher, particularly in the 1980's I think, with Grandma getting mugged twice near hospital. I imagine with the rise of South West London it'll be getting a little nicer again, as Tooting for one local town is on the up.

As a little girl I loved to go shopping with Grandma, it was never a simply pop to the local shop and buy milk trip. We'd meet so many of her friends and neighbours on every walk that it would take so long to walk a few feet along the path. And she liked to go in different shops for each purchase, I think I remember her cigarettes; Craven A being cheaper in the off licence so we'd go there. We'd also always go to the Old Dairy for milk and bread. I never tired of hearing of the story of how it was a proper dairy once, and how Uncle K as a young boy used to work with the milkman and his horse on his rounds.

Grandma's street itself was best in autumn as a country girl I'd never known anything like the feel of fallen crispy leaves on top of a hard pavement. The crunching, crisping and kicking feeling was one I'd almost look forward to every year. The street had been very white I guess, full of respectable older people when I was tiny. Then it began to change subtly and middle class Afro-Caribbean people moved in. Grandma's friends made different food, and had different drinks at Christmas time, but they were still all very similar.

Then I think towards the end of her time there, she began to know less people. More younger couples I guess moved in, less keen to be part of a fifty odd year old community. It didn't stop the regulars like the milkman popping in for a fag and a cup of tea; or the old friends up the road nipping out when they could and helping each other out.

Inside Grandma's house was where I played, met the family, ate her delicious food and loved to be. I used to adore the polished parquet flooring in the hall, made safer my a middle rug but still accessible for quick slides. I loved Grandma's bathroom with its blue bath and gold taps, and accoutrement's in the shape of fish. I loved the scary picture of a mans' squashed head in Uncle A's bedroom and I loved the sense of family and history that ran through it.

And I guess that is what it is all about; Grandma believed in history, family, fun and good times, oh and taking the Telegraph for the crossword. She'd have loved our children, and they her.

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